Melissa M. Blum, 31, of Forked River, and her unborn daughter, Madison Michelle Blum, died June 17 of natural causes, just four months after the untimely death of her husband.
Blum's husband Matthew C. Blum after collapsing in the parking lot of Winding River Park Skating Center. Matt and Melissa Blum (nee Mulero) were married Oct. 29, 2010, and discovered they were expecting their first child two weeks before Matt died. Blum was due to deliver Madison in October.
'She died of a broken heart'
"Daughter, granddaughter, niece, sister, aunt, friend, cousin — these are just a few simple titles to describe Melissa," Blum's sister Jennifer Allarde of Bayville said in the eulogy she delivered at St. Barnabas R.C. Church on Saturday.
All of us here know that she meant much more than titles can express," Allarde said. "From the time she was born, Melissa could grab your heart with her smile. She was always a tiny girl with big ambitions and a clear vision of what it meant to be a great person."
"She also loved every child she had the pleasure of working with, and felt truly blessed to be doing something that gave her so much joy," Allarde said.
Blum worked as a speech pathologist first with Manchester Township School District and then with Children's Specialized Hospital in Toms River.
"The smile on her face was the brightest when there was a child in her arms," said Allarde.
"It was very beautiful," said Blum's father-in-law, Charles Blum, of Allarde's eulogy. "It was also something we could never have said. We could never have gotten the strength to get up there and talk."
"Father Kevin [Keelin] said today at the funeral, basically she died of a broken heart. ... I don't have a better answer than that. I wish I did," said Blum, of Lanoka Harbor.
"He talked about the shock everyone was going through. We had just done this four months ago. There were just no words to describe how everyone was feeling. That's pretty much true. From the emotional point of view, it's a nightmare," Charles Blum said.
The only solace they have is knowing that Matt, Melissa, and Madison are together again, he said.
"You don't have to make things up about my sister. She really was very genuine. Once you met her, she made sure she kept in touch. She was always aware of other people. She always wanted to serve others and make sure everybody was okay," said Allarde on Thursday night.
"She was so excited about the baby. She felt her growing inside her. As a speech pathologist she has to drive in the car a lot. Recently, every time when she was in the car, the baby would move a lot. She would just love that. It was like the baby was keeping her company in the car," she said.
Allarde fondly recalled walking to the ice cream store with her mother and sister and said it was one of their favorite things to do together.
'Her smile lit up a room'
"She was a little tiny person, but very strong. Big-hearted, goal-oriented. In her short life of 31 years, she accomplished every goal she set out to accomplish," said Blum's friend, Kristina Luna, Friday morning.
Luna coined the nickname "Shorty" for Blum 17 years ago when the two women were Central Regional High School classmates on a field trip to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. An exhibit that measured height dashed Blum's belief that she was 5 feet tall when it measured her height at 4 feet, 11 and 3/4 inches, said Luna.
"That's OK," Luna told her. "You'll always be my little shorty."
In high school, Blum and Luna were in band and several other clubs together. Blum was also in the marching band and a member of the honor society, Luna said, and they received scholarships to colleges that were 15 minutes apart.
"Her freshman year, she wasn't allowed to bring a car, so every Friday I'd pick her up and bring her home and bring her back on Monday," Luna said.
"In all these years, even with the distance between us, we have always been close," she said.
"You'll get this over and over again from everyone you talk to: her smile lit up a room," said Blum's sister-in-law Jennifer Sotelo Thursday night.
Melissa was always more of a sister than a sister-in-law, said Sotelo.
"In the wake of everything that happened with my brother, she was a very strong person. I would always tell her, 'I wish I was as strong as you. I wish that I could handle it like this.' I think a lot of the stuff she was holding back, so the pregnancy wasn't as stressful. She was a very giving, loving person," she said.
On May 21, held for Melissa and Madison at Winding River Skating Center. The event raised over $9,000, said Charles Blum.
"We never thought we'd be using the money to bury her instead of helping her," he said.
"The morning she died was the day me and my mother and her mother and sister were all going with her to the sonogram," said Sotelo.
Melissa Blum was born in Elizabeth. She graduated from Central Regional High School in 1997, was a graduate of William Paterson University in Wayne, and received her master's degree at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., an obituary at MyCentralJersey.com reported.
Blum is survived by her parents Cirilo and Betsy Mulero, Bayville; her sister Jennifer and her husband Dennis Allarde and their children Antonio and Angelina, Bayville; her maternal grandmother Natividad Lefebre, Bayville; her father and mother in-law Charles and Joan Blum, Lanoka Harbor; her sister in-law and her husband Jennifer and Mike Sotelo and their children Kylie, Derek and Ashley, the obituary said.